From flowering filing cabinets to potted plants in pallets, this commission was certainly something a little different from the norm. The context behind these unusual installations was the Greening Grey Britain Summit, held at the Pestana Hotel, Chelsea. The event was hosted by the RHS during the Chelsea Flower Show and was an opportunity for lots of different people from many business sectors to discuss how to make more of our grey London spaces, especially the front gardens that fill our capital. I was really keen to be involved in the event, especially as I hate seeing those boring grey gardens on my travels across London.
I was asked to produce 5 installations to reinforce the sentiment behind the conference and to catch the eyes of those attending. I had to use plants in a creative way, incorporating recycled items; the idea being that anyone could do the same in their own garden. I love recycling objects to use as interior or exterior design features and have spent many an evening accidentally looking at amazing things made from pallets, so I couldn't wait to get stuck in! The first area I had to cover was the lecturn (where the speaker stood) and the panel table. The summit was a Q and A in part with horticulturalists and some politicians, (even Alan Titchmarsh himself) and was being filmed so I had to make sure the stage looked good.
I opted for baked bean can planters which I stacked at various heights around the lecturn, with zingy green maidenhair fern. I also painted some of the cans with stone wash paint to add variety.
I had to bear in mind that the displays had to be accessible to anyone with a hint of a garden and not a lot of gardening know-how, so I thought what better than bean cans to start off on a simple and effective note? Pretty much everyone eats some sort of canned food, so pretty much everyone could put some plants in the cans. Simple (s).
To dress the panel table I chose something a little more subtle as I didn't want to overcrowd them with endless bits and bobs. Instead I opted for a 'living bunting'. This was simply a piece of wire which I hung various ladles and spoons from, filled with mini succulent plants and ferns. The thought behind this one was to create something that needed zero floor space and next to no maintenance or watering.
The larger displays were a little more time consuming to construct but at the end definitely worth the many trips up and down in the hotel's tiny staff lift. I chose to use an old piece of furniture, in this case an old retro filing cabinet, which I planted with bright red geraniums. These are by far the easiest plant to keep in your garden in my opinion, as the come back year after year, even with just natural rain watering...and they are seriously colourful.
It was a tricky task to liven up this conference suite but these geraniums certainly helped add a splash of colour to the entrance. The second larger piece was made from old pallets. I've seen people make pallets into some astounding patio furniture and outdoor lounge sofas, but let's face it, that's just not achievable for most people! I went for something a little more realistic and planted pots of kitchen herbs in the pallet (leaning on another pallet to look like it was 'wall mounted'- as I wasn't allowed to leave a scratch on the hotel walls). I also added trailing clematis for a touch of colour and flowers.
The last piece was the most difficult to construct and it was tricky to photograph (with a huge window right behind) but looked pretty cool on the night. For this I decided to look at trailing plants, the most common of all being ivy. I wanted to manipulate the plants in an interesting way so chose to trail them around lamp shade frames as a kind of outdoor lamp feature (minus the light - although you could put solar fairy lights into the mix too). This idea was difficult to explain from the offset but the RHS were happy to go with it and I was really pleased with the outcome.
Of course if you did this in a real garden you could hang the light shades from anything and use any low maintenance trailing plant for the desired effect.
You can find loads more info on the RHS's Greening Grey Britain initiative here: